I got permission to post the first chapter of “Cold Comfort” by Carol Ervin and I’m taking it 🙂 Have a look!
The first shriek startled Wanda like a sudden blast of wind. Since noon, she’d heard nothing but the squeak of leather, the horse’s breath and footfall, the rush of water. Only broken weeds suggested there might be another traveler on the grassy road. She twisted in the saddle but saw no one behind, no sign of anyone on the slope of charred trees or across the rocky river.
The howls repeated, high blasts of fury, a woman somewhere at the end of her wits. Maybe hurting a child, or being hurt herself in a terrible way.
Wanda’s horse, a red mare, stopped under a young tree at the roadside. She kicked the animal’s fat sides and jerked on the reins to pull up its head, but it did as it had all day─exactly as it pleased. When it stretched its neck to graze, she stood in the stirrups, pulled her knife from its sheath and cut a switch from the tree. Before she could slap the switch against its rump, the horse took off at a trot. Her butt bounced and her hands gripped the saddle horn. It was too late to wonder if she was better off alone.
She’d welcomed the loneliness and hardship of travel from North Dakota to West Virginia, choked by engine smoke, bone-rattled and sleepless for three days and nights. Pacing depot platforms, waiting for the next train. Sitting near family groups, bouncing other mothers’ children on her lap, avoiding men, lying about herself.
In Elkins she’d bought the horse for the last leg of her journey. After a full meal and a night’s rest in the Delmonico Hotel, she had no fear of following an unknown road on horseback. Everything ahead should be familiar, though she’d left the mountains way back in 1900, fifteen years younger. She told the stableman she’d ridden before. He’d given her a skeptical look.